What Is an Associate Degree in General Arts?

Would you like a well-rounded education that covers several liberal arts topics and could prepare you for a range of careers? Do you want to be able to transfer your general education credits to a 4-year degree program? Earning an associate degree in general arts can provide you with some or all of the foundational education you'll need to pursue a career or transfer to a professional degree program.

Reasons for Obtaining an Associate Degree in General Studies

An associate degree program in general studies might appeal to you if you want to begin your postsecondary education but aren't entirely sure yet what subjects you want to focus on. General studies programs cover a wide range of subjects that can help you narrow down your interests and eventually prepare you to either obtain an entry-level position in the workforce or transfer your credits to a 4-year baccalaureate program in another field.

Enrolling in a general studies associate degree program before transferring to a 4-year school has strong advantages, even if you do know what subject you wish to study. Most 2-year programs in general studies contain a great deal of general education courses, so you might decide to complete these courses at a less expensive community college and then transfer the credits to a 4-year university where you can complete your major and specialization courses. Another advantage to taking your first two years at a community or junior college is that class sizes are often smaller than those at larger universities, offering more opportunity for one-on-one attention from your teachers, and tuition rates are usually substantially less than at a university.

Important Facts About This Program

Prerequisites Minimum math, history, science, and English high school courses
Specializations Computer science, logistics, pre-BSN, theater arts, mass communications, teaching
Programs Internships and apprenticeships are available after graduation
Possible Careers Administrative assistant, bookkeeping clerk, customer service representative
Median Salary (2019) $38,957 (for administrative assistants)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 5% decline (for all secretaries and administrative assistants)**

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


A typical 2-year associate degree program in general arts, more commonly known as general studies, consists of core courses and electives. Core courses are those that the school requires you to take for any degree, such as English, social sciences, natural science, and math. Some schools might allow you to have a concentration within your degree program, in which case you can select some of your required courses and electives to go with that concentration.

Depending on what's offered at your school, you could have a variety of courses you can take to fulfill certain requirements. For example, natural science requirements could be met with courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, chemistry or physics. Social science electives can range from criminal justice to economics to psychology. English, literature and communication electives can include writing, oral communication or speech, while humanities subjects could be comprised of topics in history and fine arts classes. Math electives can include algebra and calculus.

Online Programs

Online programs leading to an associate degree in general studies are readily available. Generally, these programs use an online learning system designed for college teaching, such as Blackboard, to deliver the coursework. The requirements for an online program are typically the same as those for a classroom-based program and require the same number of units. You'll still have to take exams and write papers. The advantage is that you can schedule your learning around your job or family life. Some programs can be completed in the same time frame as that of an on-campus program, though some online programs are offered according to a different schedule.